Khanya Okumu




South Africa



By Khanya Okumu

Making the most of our limited time

To quote JRR Tolkien “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us”.

About a year ago, I decided it was time to study again, to use my time to further my education and grow my network. This life-changing decision would not have been possible without the support I received from my husband, John Okumu. And my fist month here has really shown me the importance of relationships and communication.

A month into my Oxford MBA and I can tell it’s going to be amazing. It’s taken me four drafts to get to this final blog post, not because of writer’s block, but because there is too much content to choose from. Speaking to some alum before coming to Oxford, I had an idea that my life was going to be busy, but I did not fully appreciate the number of things that would be vying for my attention. To paraphrase Vice Chancellor, Louise Richardson’s words from Matriculation, in a place that is both ancient and modern, global and local it is no wonder that the choice of activities is as diverse as the class itself!

Day 1, week 1 at Said dressed for Heritage Day (South African public holiday)

Without giving you a ‘blow-by-blow’ of the things I have seen, done and heard during my time here thus far, I will choose some moments that have stood out over the last 30 days.

The first thing that stands out from launch week is everyone’s ability to talk (and mingle and smile). Imagine meeting 331 people who are both interesting and interested. That’s exactly what it was! A week of hyper-networking which we closed off by having drinks with dinosaurs! Literally, at the Museum of Natural History.

See, I told you. We really had drinks with dinosaurs.

Careers week which followed was not for the faint hearted. We were challenged in this week to not only think about the future careers we want, but also what kind of people we want to be, the kind of impact we want to have on the world and others and how we think through problems. What stands out for me is the power and value of positive criticism. Never in my life has my CV been reviewed by 3 people within the space of 45 minutes all of whom genuinely want to help and contribute to my development. The words spoken by Dame Vivian Hunt to the class stand out here when she said ‘clarity about who you are is not ego’; how great it is to have reinforcing feedback from peers about your character and experience. I have never before thought of myself as a consultant, but the experience I have in impact investing and strategy development may potentially lead me down a path towards impact consulting, lets see how the year unfolds.

Lectures started off with a bang in the following week (which came as a bit of a shock to some of us as we’d slightly forgotten we were here to study). What I know for sure is that we are all here for each other. In a class as diverse as this, many need the accountants for Accounting, most need the engineers and consultants for Technology and Operations Management, and we all need the sociologists for Organizational Behaviour! Teamwork and collaboration are the name of the game in business school, and whilst some things are a competition; our learning is dependent on us being willing to participate in conversations and debate as well as to share experience and learnings.

Finally, my Oxford journey would hardly be possible were it not for Chevening. The orientation in London was a further reminder of the importance of building networks for a purpose. With over 50 000 applications received, 1750 scholars were chosen from 141 countries (talk about diversity and inclusion!). This is so much more than a scholarship; it is a network that has given me friends.

Dean Peter Tufano closed his welcome speech during launch week, by giving us a view on what success is, saying that ‘success looks like choice’. With this year I choose to make the relationships that I build from my cohort of 331 classmates meaningful. I choose to use and share my experience and skills to contribute as participate in the MBA Impact Investing Network & Training (MIINT) competition and serve as one of the elected Co-chairs of Saïd Social Impact Oxford Business Network (SIOBN).

The co-chairs of the Social Impact OBN; Saskia Rotshuizein, Khanya Okumu, and Carlos Blanco

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